Although mature spinach is ready for harvest five to seven weeks after planting, baby spinach is harvested when the plants are only about a month old. The delicate leaves provide all the fiber and nutrition of mature spinach, along with a mild flavor and tender texture. After the leaves are quickly blanched in boiling water, baby spinach is ready to freeze for use later as a side dish or in dips, omelets, soup, lasagna or a nearly endless variety of hot dishes.
Rinse the spinach thoroughly to remove sand and grit. Baby spinach requires no trimming or cutting.
Fill a large cooking pot with water. Bring the water to a full, rolling boil.
Place the baby spinach in a cheesecloth bag or metal steamer. Immerse the spinach in the boiling water, and cover the pot.
Set a kitchen timer for two minutes.
Plunge the steamer basket into a bowl of ice water as soon as the timer rings. Leave the spinach in the cold water for about two minutes.
Remove the spinach from the cold water and let it drain thoroughly. Pack the drained spinach in plastic freezer containers with 1/2 inch of headspace to allow for expansion. You can also use resealable plastic freezer bags.
- Blanching is the short period of pre-cooking required to stop or slow the development of natural enzymes that help the spinach mature.
- Set the timer accurately when blanching baby spinach, as inadequate blanching may not thoroughly stop the development of enzymes, resulting in tough leaves and an unpleasant taste. However, too much blanching results in loss of nutrients, color, texture and flavor.
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